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LGBTI Sacrifice Remembered

2015 04 25 CBR Wreath Laying

On the centennary of the landing at Anzac Cove, the sacrifice of LGBTI personnel was commemorated alongside their brothers and sisters in arms with rainbow wreaths.

Across the country in major city centers including Canberra, Sydney, Townsville and Melbourne serving personnel laid a rainbow wreath to commemorate the sacrifice of LGBTI personnel that has otherwise been forgotten.

The Shrine at Melbourne was the scene of the 1982 ‘RSL’s day of shame’ where members of the Gay Ex-Serviceman’s Association (GESA) were turned away by then RSL president Bruce Ruxton and denied the opportunity to lay their wreath.

This year, there was no opposition, no distaste or disgust. Instead a quiet mention of heartfelt thanks from a former Defence member who was discharged under former policies banning homosexual behaviour. For her, the acknowledgement recognition of her service from current serving personnel was affirming, and an important part of healing wounds of the past.

In Melbourne, Max Campbell, the President of GESA laid a wreath. In 1983, the year following the original attempt by GESA, Max returned to lay a private wreath in remembrance to “our brothers and sisters who died during the war”; however, this was not met without opposition from the President of the Victorian RSL, Bruce Ruxton.

Campbell said that the opportunity to lay the wreath was an honor he never thought he would have, particularly following the disbandment of GESA in 1984.

“I cannot explain the honor it gave me to lay the wreath in Melbourne, I was honestly speechless,” said Campbell.

“Standing there at the shrine with my hand on my heart and my head dipped in reflection, I had a tear in my eye and a feeling of somber gratitude for this end to the years of pain and silence. This was an experience I will never forget.”

In Sydney, Graham Jamieson commemorated his late partner Thomas Goldsby and wore his meals during the service. Goldsby served in both the British and Australian Armies in three wars.

"The honour was all mine being there with our great people in the armed forces and DEFGLIS sharing the moment," said Jamieson.

What started as a small fundraising effort for a single wreath in Sydney rapidly expanded with donations from members and the community exceeding the initial target by 400%.

In stark contrast to 1983, the Sydney wreathlaying was facilitiated by the NSW branch of the RSL.

“The wreaths were financed entirely by DEFGLIS members through a crowdfunding initiative, our members were exceptionally generous and this allowed us to lay wreaths in four cities rather than our initial plan of just one” said Luke Pitty, who laid a wreath in Townsville for the occasion.

Vince Chong, president of DEFGLIS said it was important to remember those who had to serve in silence, and honour their service alongide their brothers and sisters.

“ANZAC Day is a day of national remembrance for all past and present service men and woman, and the DEFGLIS association has undertaken a responsibility to especially remember LGBTI service," said Chong.

"DEFGLIS especially reaches out to LGBTI veterans, former personnel and their families to extend the arm of friendship and invites them to reconnect with the Defence community.

“As we remember and acknowledge the plight of those who came before us, we must ensure we do all we can to ensure that those who follow in our footsteps are free from such burdens.”

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